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Members of the House of Representatives Thursday voted for the “Democracy Sustainability Act” that authorizes the state (through government’s chest) to fund political parties that will achieve a minimum of 10% in general and presidential elections.
“This is a job well done to institutionalize our political parties in the country. It will sustain political parties and democracy in our country,” according to Rep. Thomas P. Fallah, chair of the opposition CDC caucus in the House.
If concurred by the Senate and signed into law by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the Act would guarantee allotments from the national fiscal budget to political parties achieving 10% minimum threshold of votes in national elections.
According to the Act, the allotments will range from US$250,000 for parties with the minimum score of 10% to US$1 million for a party with the highest score of 50% plus 1 vote.
The decision to pass the ‘’Political Parties Sustainability Act’’ now dubbed as the “Democracy Sustainability Act” which was earlier vetoed by President Sirleaf following a similar vote by the 52nd legislature, came immediately after lawmakers held a heated debate in chambers.
Some lawmakers argued that the bill will discourage “multiparty” politics since, only political parties that will meet the 10% threshold prescribed in the amended Act will benefit funding.
But others argued that it will “institutionalize political parties and discourage individualism in the administration of political parties.”
“Government has a responsibility of sustaining these parties. It is therefore important that government provides public funding for these parties,” according to Rep. Gabriel Buchanan Smith, House chair on Elections and Inaugurations
He argued that the practice of funding political parties is not unique to Liberia.
Several political parties flooded the country during the legislative and presidential elections in 2011, but just a handful of them are now visible.
Despite concerns by some lawmakers arguing that funding political parties would be a burden on “poor tax payers,” Rep. Francis Paye welcomed the bill and encouraged other lawmakers to endorse it.
“We are the politicians, we pay our taxes, so I see nothing wrong with this bill,” he added.
But Rep. Eugene Fallah Kparkar argued that allotting funds to few parties that would meet the 10% threshold required by the Act would discourage multiparty system in the country.
“If we enact this bill, only four parties would benefit. And I strongly urge you ladies and gentlemen not to take that route,” he cautioned.
The bill was however enacted by his colleagues despite contentions from other lawmakers who threatened to battle senate concurrence.